By Tim Leeds
There's a new cellular phone service in town. Hi-Country Cellular by Airtouch, located on the first floor of the Atrium Mall, will hold its grand opening Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Door prizes, coffee and cookies will be offered, along with a chance to view the business' wares.
Hi-Country Cellular offers a wide variety of products and services from the cellular phone industry. Carla Frey-Streeper, who owns the business with her sister, Ronda Frey-Carlson, said in the last two weeks they have picked up more than 30 companies in the United States and Canada from whom to order merchandise. She said their business offers a full line of cellular phones and accessories, and offers both satellite and analog service.
The main lines for the business are Nokia and Motorarolla.
Frey-Streeper said their business began when Airtouch bought out Commnet Cellular, which was effective Feb. 29.
She said she worked for Commnet in Great Falls, and the company moved her to Havre to open a store in the Holiday Village Shopping Center. After Airtouch bought the company out, it asked its rural employees to become indirect agents for them.
Frey-Streeper said this status makes her and her sister the local owners and operators of Hi-Country Cellular. She said while they have to follow guidelines set by Airtouch, they are completely independent for ordering, selling and marketing their products and services within those guidelines.
She said while they can still take payments for the pre-paid cellular service, Airtouch no longer allows monthly billing payments to be made locally.
Airtouch is currently the world's largest cellular company, with more than 31.5 million customers and more than 24,000 customers. It is one of the top 25 companies in the world, and is the second largest company in the United Kingdome. Started in 1984, it offers worldwide coverage and uses the Global Star Satellite System to provide satellite cellular access.
Frey-Streeper said they plan to start providing other satellite services as well as cellular phone service. She said they will offer Cell Star Dish Network satellite TV services, as well as other satellite services.
Frey-Carlson said they will offer cellular Internet services, under wireless application protocol (WAP), probably within a year. Software and a phone-jack hookup will allow customers to hook their computer to a cellular phone and receive Internet service through that hookup. This will give access to modem connections as well.
Satellite cellular service allows connections virtually anywhere in the country. Frey-Carlson said this is ideal for people who are out of standard cellular service range. She said it could apply perfectly for people in agriculture, construction or oil-field work.
The phones offer both analog and satellite connection. A customer can use the analog service when in range, and switch to satellite service if the analog connection can't be made. Frey-Carlson said this way a customer can save up the satellite service until it is needed.
The phones available for this service can be incredibly small, as light as three ounces and described as the size of a pack of Double Mint Gum.
"There are so many new products and services coming out, we're really getting excited ordering new things to offer,"Frey-Streeper said
She said Commnet used to have to approve any orders they made, but under Airtouch, they can order whatever they want. She said they're now ordering a wide variety of colors and styles of merchandise
The two invited people to come in during the grand opening to look at their new products and services.